The expression “word-symbol” is a loose translation of the Sanskrit term “mantra,” a full understanding of which calls for the knowledge of quite a number of metaphysical and mystical concepts. In the present article I have preferred to treat the subject from a common-sense point of view, avoiding as far as possible philosophical subtleties.
We catch the Godhead much as we catch light. The very structures that enable us to experience both limit how much of each we can experience. Since we catch God with our human hearts and intellect and will, since we reach out to the Godhead because of our human need and desire, it is not surprising that what we catch—our visions of God—have both points of similarity and points of difference.
Years before Swami Vivekananda came to America for the Parliament of Religions, literate Americans had been made familiar with Indian thought by such writers as Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. Among these the most thoroughgoing by far was Thoreau. He was a profound reader who went to sources and explored them carefully, not satisfied with extracts and quotations as Emerson often was, and not bluffing his way as Whitman so often did.
I remember seeing in India an interesting notice boldly painted on the side of a building which said BE KIND TO ANIMALS BY NOT EATING THEM. How charmingly naïve! And yet how clearly stated and how forthright an appeal!
We know that all our troubles begin in the mind. Our mind is our friend as well as our enemy. When under control, it is our friend. When it gets the better of us, it is our enemy. Those who have control over their minds are at peace. They are truly happy.